Next City, August 19, 2019: Breaking through and breaking down the Delmar Divide in St. Louis
Julia Allen, 70, is a lifelong resident of The Ville, a historic African-American neighborhood in St. Louis.
The Ville itself was a product of segregation. The neighborhood sits north of the “Delmar Divide,” referring to Delmar Boulevard as a dividing line running east to west across St. Louis City and County. In the early 20th century, as former enslaved persons and their descendants began to escape the Jim Crow south during the Great Migration, the white-controlled St. Louis real estate industry employed a system of racial covenants and steering to drive the city’s growing black population to neighborhoods north of Delmar, while driving white families to the south.
In July 2016, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a national coalition of bank watchdog and community development groups, put out a report analyzing home lending in St. Louis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. In its analysis of St. Louis, the coalition found that having a higher proportion of African-American residents within a census tract correlated with fewer mortgage loan originations. Using data from 2012 to 2014, the report included a map of mortgage lending by census tract in St. Louis, overlayed with racial demographics, showing the stark absence of mortgage lending north of the Delmar Divide.